Antonio DeGrasse, 81

Longtime Riverhead Rotarian Antonio DeGrasse passed away on April 14, 2016 after a brief illness.

Antonio DeGrasse of Jamesport died on April 14, 2016 at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. He was 81 years old.

Born in Queens on February 21, 1935, he was the son of Austin and Constance Tyson DeGrasse.

He earned a bachelor of science in zoology at Howard University in 1960 and a certification in educational administration at C.W. Post in 1985.

DeGrasse worked for the Riverhead Central School District for 29 years. He had been a parole officer working with youthful offenders and had the lowest recidivism rate in the state when the school district offered him a job handling discipline at the high school in 1969. After he went back to school for his certification he was made an assistant principal.

He was a member of the Riverhead Rotary Club and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. He was a co-founder and past president of the North Fork Breast Health Coalition.

In his spare time, he enjoyed picture framing and gardening.

He had a passion for working with at-risk African-American teens and making sure they took a path in life that would lead them to success, said his wife and fellow educator Ann Cotten-Degrasse. He took kids under his wing, she said, mentoring and inspiring them and giving them a dose of tough love when they needed it.

“He’d call them his ‘diamonds in the rough’ — kids who were under-achievers but had a lot of potential. Today some of those “diamonds” include the chief administrative judge of the City of New York, lawyers, teachers and others with advanced degrees. “They all say they would never have gone to college if it weren’t for Antonio,” she said.  They stayed in touch through the years and would come for dinner when visiting Riverhead and to celebrate his birthday, said Cotten-DeGrasse, who is retired from a career as a teacher at Riverhead High School, where the two met. They married in Riverhead on June 10, 1983.

He was predeceased by his brother Alfonse in 1997 and his first wife Marva in 1979. He is survived by his wife Ann, his son Antonio Jr., of St. Albans, Queens; his daughter Kendra Morgan, of Red Lodge, Montana; and by three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, May 6,  from 4 to 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Riverhead, 103 First Street, Riverhead. Arrangements have been entrusted to McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Antonio DeGrasse Scholarship Fund to support the “Diamonds in the Rough” scholarship award, P.O. Box 124 South Jamesport, New York, 11970.


Obituary from RiverheadLOCAL, reprinted by permission. ©2016 East End Local Media Corp.